Artists thrive at Delta College

While community colleges are best known for providing affordable workforce development programs and skills training, Delta College has built a quality arts program.

Sanford Buchalter, an adjunct professor at Delta, credits the students for cultivating a culture that values art. With nearly 20 years of teaching experience at Delta and Saginaw Valley State University (SVSU), Buchalter sees a unique student experience at Delta.

Andrew Rieder, who celebrates 10 years at Delta College this year, teaches both drawing and painting classes.“Each teacher creates an environment where there’s relationships built. I hear that often, that students love the culture of the art department. They get to know people and they get to relate to people and there’s a common bond,” says Buchalter.

Rieder said seeing students learn about art reminds him why he loves it so much.Delta College offers classes on everything from drawing and painting to digital design and sculpting.

“For a community college, it has facilities that can compete with a lot of four-year schools and most if not all of the community colleges in Michigan,” says Jonathan Garn, associate dean of Arts & Letters at Delta College.

The school offers a computer lab for students to work on digital projects, a clay lab for sculpting and pottery courses, and studio rooms for drawing and painting.

“We’ve got great faculty and students,” Garn says. “The faculty that we have here studied at some of the best schools in the country and have degrees that are the same as anywhere else in the state. Not only do they have the qualification, but they have the ability to teach and connect with students in an amazing way.”

Andrew Rieder, an associate professor and gallery coordinator, says the best part of his job is connecting with the students through art.Andrew Rieder, an associate professor and gallery coordinator, teaches both drawing and painting classes at Delta. He says the best part of his job is connecting with students through art.

“I enjoy talking about drawing and painting to people and meeting young people who are interested in it and enjoy exploring it. It’s a nice reminder of why I engage in the activity myself,” says Rieder.

Personally, Rieder has been passionate about art since childhood.

“I certainly thought about other career paths, but (art is) always something that I enjoy doing, I get enough people telling me they enjoy what I do that it seems kinda silly for me to try to hack it at anything else,” Rieder says.

Rieder, who celebrates his 10th year of teaching at Delta College this year, describes his students as a source of inspiration for his own journey as an artist.

“It’s heartening to see younger people taking it on. It kind of lets me know that what I’ve decided to do with my life -- this part of me that I enjoy so much -- is not something that’s going the way of the horse and buggy.”

Sherri Archer, who teaches drawing and art history classes at Delta College, said she began her career in management, but quickly realized she needed art in her daily life.However, students often get talked out of pursuing a career in art. Sherri Archer, now an adjunct professor at Delta College, was one of those students.

“Like everybody else, I got talked out of going into art at college. I was told, you don’t want to do that, you’re not going to make money,” remembers Archer.

Sherri ArcherArcher began working in management instead. While she found the secure job others wanted for her, she wasn’t happy.

“I was miserable. I didn’t love what I did. I got to a tipping point where I just couldn’t see myself going in to work every day, where I never have that here,” says Archer.

She studied art history and fine arts, eventually pursuing her love for fiber arts. Today, she teaches drawing and art history classes as well as working as the costume director at the Michigan Renaissance Festival.

“Art saves me all the time. I had a really crappy day yesterday. And I was like, you know what? I’m just going to be in my studio, I’m going to eat some Taco Bell, and I’m just going to make some stuff – and the whole world can just go away.”